After performing their civic duty, jurors in a Florida murder trial were given a “bombshell” by the judge presiding over the case.
Palm Beach County Circuit Judge Jeffrey Colbath informed the six jurors who delivered the guilty verdict that the defendant had named them all in jailhouse call, according to the Sun Sentinel.
During the trial, defendant Tavaress Alexander Wilson had reportedly called his brother from jail and given him the names of all the jurors as well as the two prosecutors.
“The jurors need to pray on it,” he had reportedly said.
“I want to reassure you about your safety,” the judge told the four men and two women of the jury on Tuesday. “I know this is unsettling. It’s unsettling to me … Nothing had happened as a result of the names being given out.”
Detectives who investigated the incident found that Wilson had not given out any instructions with the jurors’ names which he had reportedly spelled out, and “there’s no suspicion that anything was directed toward you,” Colbath assured them.
“I don’t know if that’s any comfort,” he continued. “I have as much comfort as I can be given that nothing bad is going to happen or has happened.”
Wilson’s lawyers claimed the action was for religious reasons, the paper reported. But one of the prosecutors countered, “There’s no appropriate reason to give out the names other than a nefarious purpose.”
According to the Sun Sentinel:
Colbath said he felt obligated to tell the jurors that Wilson disclosed their names, and the prosecutors’ names as well. He explained that juror names are public record under Florida law, as well as the fact that all phone calls from the jail are recorded and monitored by the authorities.
The judge said he couldn’t tell the panel about it any sooner, as “it would have skewed your ability to be fair” in considering the evidence in the trial. On Monday, he denied a motion from prosecutors to bring up the call during their questioning of Wilson.
Colbath told the jurors that Wilson will remain in jail and faces a sentence of up to life in prison when he is sentenced at a later date.
An investigator for the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office met with the jurors in a private room afterward to discuss the matter.
The 29-year-old defendant was found guilty of second-degree felony murder with a firearm, burglary with a firearm, felon in possession of a firearm, and two animal cruelty charges stemming from a 2015 incident. He was convicted in the death of his 23-year-old accomplice even though he did not pull the trigger. The homeowner, whose home was burglarized and two dogs were killed in the crime, was the one who shot the accomplice.
Wilson has currently lost all jail phone privileges besides calls to his lawyers from the Public Defender’s office, the Sun Sentinel reported. The judge said he would consider Wilson’s request to call his mother at another time.
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